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Obituary: Adelia Musa Williams

Adelia Musa Williams was born the third of five children in the small town of Forlimpopoli, Italy, the daughter of an artist, Romeo Musa, and Valmire Sella. She spent her childhood in the central Italian town of Campobasso and moved at age 13 to Milan, the city she loved and considered her home town. The Musa family was very close and education-minded; her older brothers, Arnaldo was an architect, and Edmondo an attorney. Her sister Gilda was a well-known poet.

Adelia was a prodigious student and enrolled at university at the age of 16, earning her doctorate in classical languages and literature at the University of Milan at age 20. She began teaching soon thereafter, and later received a scholarship to study in Berlin, earning her degree in German studies there. Unusually gifted in language, as a young woman Adelia spoke six languages fluently (Italian, English, German, French, Latin, Ancient Greek) and continued all her life studying and learning with proficiency numerous foreign languages including Russian, Hebrew and Japanese.

Immediately after WWII, Adelia took the state exam to teach college-level Latin – the first time in history that Italian women were permitted to enter this traditionally male-only academic area. Her exam results were the second highest in the country and she was admitted to teach classical liceo – one of the first women ever to do so in Italy. She taught Latin and Italian at the Liceo Scientifico Vittoria Veneto and the country’s most renowned liceo, Liceo Classico Berchet, both in Milan. Adelia remained in contact with many of the students she taught there until the end of her life, attending numerous specially organized class reunions during her trips to Italy and enjoying visits from students at her home in Port Washington.

In the 1950s she was awarded two Fulbright Scholarships, one to attend Syracuse University, and the second to teach German and Latin in the Port Washington schools. There she met George Williams, an English and social studies teacher. In 1958 they were married in Milan, Italy, and established their residence in Port Washington, where they lived for over 50 years.

Following the birth of her children, Adelia chose not to pursue fulltime work, preferring to take care of the education of her daughters. She joined the staff of the Consulting Education Program in Port Washington and was a popular and admired teacher there, teaching Italian language and culture for some 40 years. In her spare time Adelia was devoted to a close study of Biblical texts, in particular examining the translations (and mistranslations) of the Bible across many languages and over the centuries, from Hebrew, to Greek, to Latin and finally into Italian and English, the languages she studied most closely. This research occupied her for almost two decades.

Adelia wrote several books including a Latin textbook, and she established a museum in honor of her father Romeo in Bedonia, Italy, which houses his many lithographs, watercolors and paintings. She was an avid traveler and traveled with her husband throughout Europe and the U.S., with excursions as well to Mexico, Russia, Australia and Scandinavia. She was a life member of the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society and the Port Washington Retired Educators Association.

She leaves a loving family, which includes her husband George; her three daughters and their husbands, Adelia and Jeff Lubitz, Marina and Ezra Delaney, Gilda and Steve Ruggi; and seven grandchildren, Zachary, Noah, Edward, Liam, Catherine, Viva and Turner. She is also survived by her sister Giovanna and nephews including two closest to her, Enrico and Alberto Musa.

Adelia was a great letter-writer and had an exceptional ability to sustain lasting friendships with those around her: family, colleagues, students, neighbors, acquaintances. She kept strong, lifelong friendships – some with friend she had met back in high school and college, and often later became close friends with their children and grandchildren too. Adelia was an extraordinary teacher, much beloved by her students, and a wonderful hostess. An exceptional cook, Adelia loved to gather round her family and friends who appreciated her terrific food and conversation.

She died peacefully, with her husband by her side, on May 17, 2011. By fortunate coincidence, just two days prior to her death, her close family had held a reunion at home, and were able to visit one last time. The wake was held on May 20 and funeral at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church on May 21 followed by the burial in Nassau Knolls Cemetery, Port Washington. Arrangements were made by the Austin F. Knowles Funeral Home, Port Washington.